The method could impact optical imaging, vision correction, and disease diagnosis
A new method to make a low-cost, high-quality lens quickly using a 3D printer has promising potential to create optical imaging lenses, customized contact lenses for correcting distorted vision, or to even turn iPhones into microscopes for disease diagnosis.
Developed by Northwestern Engineering researchers after two years of research, the customized optical component, which is 5 millimeters in height and 5 millimeters in diameter, can be 3D printed in about four hours.
“Up until now, we relied heavily on the time-consuming and costly process of polishing lenses,” said Cheng Sun, associate professor of mechanical engineering and whose lab developed the 3D printing process. “With 3D printing, now you have the freedom to design and customize a lens quickly.”
The research was published on March 24 in Advanced Materials. It includes images taken with the lens connected to an Apple iPhone 6s, including high-quality detailed images of a sunset moth’s wing and a spot on a weevil’s elyta.
Like all 3D printing, creating these lenses involves placing layer upon layer of material. Sun likened building the lens to running a film projector. “Instead of projecting one frame, one image after another, we layer one frame on top of another,” Sun said. “It is like playing a movie in a vertical fashion.”
But when researchers first printed the lens, its curved layers, made of a photo-curable resin, created a visible stepping.
“We realized that the layers on top of each other created surface roughness. The layer thickness is typically 5 microns, while the wavelength of visible light is around 0.5 micron. This creates an optically rough surface,” he said. “That was the bottleneck. The roughness made the lens incapable of clear optics.”
This lead to the group’s simple guiding research question: Can we make the surface smooth without slowing down the printing speed? To solve that challenge, Sun’s group developed a two-step process of layering and polishing.
“First, we used grayscale images to create more transitions between steps,” Sun said. “Then, we coated the surface with the same photo-curable resin. That then forms the meniscus that further smooths the surface.”
The result: a transparent lens with a smooth surface.
“I must have tried more than 100 times to get this just right,” said Xiangfan Chen, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and lead author on the study.
This lens, however, is not the first high-quality lens created by 3D printing. German-based company Nanoscribe has developed a high-precision femto-second 3D printer with 150 nanometer precision, but it builds the lens in a point-by-point fashion instead of layering, Sun said.
“It is a time-consuming process. That is their limitation,” he added. “We wanted to make something comparable but faster and with better quality.”
“If you want to make a lens, do you want to make it in two hours or two weeks?” Chen said. “We are very excited about this lens.”
This process could lead to a plethora of new devices with a wide variety of applications in optics and biomedical imaging, Sun said.
Next, the group will experiment in making larger lenses as well as investigating how to integrate the 3D-printed lens with medical devices, such as an endoscope or optical microscope. “These lenses could help detect some genetic disease or cancer,” said Biqin Dong, a post-doctoral fellow focused on biomedical and mechanical engineering, who also worked on the research.
Dong also envisions that these lenses could be used by doctors in underdeveloped areas for diagnostic imaging or by field scientists as portable microscopes. The lens could also be fashioned into a customized contact lens for people with distorted corneas caused by keratoconus. “The contact lens would feature the customized surface, matching it to the shape of the patient’s cornea,” Sun said.
The Latest on: Lens created by 3D printing
via Google News
The Latest on: Lens created by 3D printing
News Roundup: Aerotec acquires Apworks, Adaptive3D to launch new polymer, MakerBot, NAMIC, MPA Singapore, Artec 3D, Materialise, PrintLab
on April 18, 2018 at 12:29 pm
CREATE will now be distributing PrintLab’s 3D printing curriculum and products. As part of a new initiative to support teachers, a 3D printing bundle is available that includes hardware, software, materials, curriculum, training resources, professional ... […]
New 3D printing materials from BASF and Essentium Materials
on April 18, 2018 at 10:27 am
Eric is a writer at 3D Printing Industry. From Ireland, he has an MA in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh. He views things through a philosophical lens and is interested in 3D printing's potential to radically alter the ... […]
Weaver Professional SLA 3D Printer Launches From £768
on April 18, 2018 at 1:37 am
3DFacture has introduced a new professional SLA laser 3D printer they have created in the form of the Weaver which offers ... more about the SLA 3D printer that is fitted with a F-theta lens now available to back via Kickstarter with pledges available ... […]
7 Ways 3D Printing Has Already Change Our Lives
on April 10, 2018 at 12:18 pm
When an object costs thousands of dollars to create and only exists for one scene, that price adds up. With 3D Printing, complex designs can be crafted in hours instead of days, and the material is perfect for only appearing through the lens. Also ... […]
New method speeds up 3-D printing of millimeter-sized imaging lenses
on March 27, 2018 at 6:28 am
Credit: Northwestern University A new method to make a low-cost, high-quality lens quickly using a 3D printer has promising potential to create optical imaging lenses, customized contact lenses for correcting distorted vision, or to even turn iPhones into ... […]
Optomec Announces Availability of 3D Printing Recipes for LENS and Aerosol Jet Customers
on August 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm
LENS Metal Printing Starter Recipes LENS Material Starter Recipes are developed by Optomec LENS application engineers and material scientists to help customers achieve optimal use of metal 3D printing with ... Recipes are also created by Optomec experts ... […]
How 3D-printing, robotics and mixed reality created this HoloLens art piece
on July 18, 2017 at 5:23 am
Hunt and his team of artists then collaborated with a host of designers and engineers to explore how Robotics, 3D-Printing and Mixed Reality could ... enhanced with purpose-built skeletal systems to create organic animation. Sound was also a key part ... […]
Meet the 35mm camera crafted entirely by a 3D printer — including the lens
on September 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm
Dudley recently shared his designs for Slo, a 3D-printed film camera. While 3D-printing a camera is a feat that’s been attempted before, Dudley managed to print the entire camera — including the lens ... filter look created from technique, not ... […]
3D-printing: German engineers create injectable micro-camera
on June 28, 2016 at 11:36 am
German engineers have created a camera no bigger than a grain of salt that could change the future of health imaging — and clandestine surveillance. Using 3D printing, researchers from the University of Stuttgart built a three-lens camera, and fit it ... […]
via Bing News